10 Nov 2021 | Feature stories |
Ogilvy optimistic about the next crop
by Dane Heverin
2006 US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy believes there is plenty of untapped potential amongst Australia’s up-and-coming golfers.
On the Australian Golf Show podcast this week, Ogilvy said there are currently young golfers in Australia that can emulate the careers of our top professionals.
“Cam Smith is now one of the best players in the world and we’ve got some of them in Australia right now. They just have to have an opportunity and the springboard,” he said.
Ogilvy has taken it upon himself to provide those players with the opportunities they need in recent times by starting ‘The Game’ two years ago and creating The Sandbelt Invitational - which will be staged on December 20-23 - with Mike Clayton.
‘The Game’ has involved Ogilvy and other experienced professionals playing with the best young amateurs and professionals in the country to expose them to more competitive golf on Melbourne’s Sandbelt courses.
“They seem to be practising for three months, playing a tournament, then practising for three months and playing a tournament without enough competitive golf,” Ogilvy said of the current crop of young players.
“They’re incredible swingers and they know everything about golf except for playing it.”
The Sandbelt Invitational has now come to life as a bigger version of ‘The Game’ that showcases the beauty of Sandbelt courses Royal Melbourne, Peninsula Kingswood, Yarra Yarra and Kingston Heath.
The tournament will feature four promising players from each of the host clubs, and Golf Australia will also select numerous players, to compete against the likes of PGA Tour winner Lucas Herbert and LPGA star Su Oh.
“We’re trying to emulate that feel of ‘in golf you earn your stripes’. Your job interview is a tournament and if you show us you can play then you’re going to get a stepping stone to go somewhere else,” Ogilvy said.
The men’s and women’s winners will both earn a start at TPS Victoria, Hosted by Geoff Ogilvy, while the men’s winner will also play at the Australian PGA Championship and the women’s winner will also play at the ISPS Handa Vic Open.
In addition to those opportunities, Ogilvy is firm in his belief that Australia’s youngsters will also get the chance to play against more top professionals at The Sandbelt Invitational in the future.
Top 100 in the world players have already expressed interest because of the Sandbelt’s appeal.
“When I got to America, the Sandbelt was this thing that only tragics who read Golf Club Atlas knew about,” Ogilvy said.
“Now, it seems to come up on the golf coverage every week. It’s got almost this mythical status about it. Tiger comes back from the Presidents Cup and tells everyone it’s his favourite course.
“Everybody speaks so glowingly about it. Everybody just needs a little bit of an excuse to come down here and they’ll come.”
For the fans, the inaugural staging of the event will allow golf enthusiasts to enter for free and walk the pristine fairways with the players.
“We’ll be walking on the fairways which I think is really good. It’s great at the Vic Open,” Ogilvy said.
“Watching golf from behind the player is so much better than watching it from the side. It’s like going to the cricket and watching from square leg. It just doesn’t work. You go down the pitch and it’s fantastic.
“Golf is so much better from behind the player. You hear the conversation, you hear the contact better, you watch the ball flight. Anybody who’s ever played golf, if you’re not entertained by watching these players hit shots up close, you’re hard to impress.”
Ogilvy simply wants to get the Australian public back attending golf tournaments and having a fantastic experience.
“We just had the spring racing carnival and no one really goes to the Melbourne Cup because of what horses are running. They go because it is a great event. We need to turn golf into that. The Australian Open, The Sandbelt Invitational, The Vic Open, these are great events to go to and ‘oh by the way there’s golf as well’.”
Listen to the full interview here.
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